Sunday, January 03, 2010

Grant Waite switches to putting left-handed in bid

to save career from total eclipse

In a last-ditch effort to save his career from total eclipse, former US PGA Tour winner Grant Waite has decided to putt left-handed.
His new style will be on display this month at the New Zealand PGA Championship in Christchurch and the New Zealand Open at The Hills course near Queenstown after the US-based Kiwi was given much-needed invitations to both events.
He has also been given an exemption into next month's Moonah Classic in Australia. That event, like the New Zealand Open, is joint-sanctioned with the Nationwide Tour, the tier below the US PGA Tour.
Waite, 45, finished 134th on the Nationwide moneylist last year with just $US31,445 ($43,200). He also picked up $US6756 in two starts on the PGA Tour.
It's a long way down from his career zenith in the early 1990s when he won the New Zealand Open in 1992 and the US PGA Tour's Kemper Open in 1993.
His last big moment on the US PGA Tour came in 2000 at the Canadian Open when he finished runner-up to Tiger Woods, beaten by a single shot after Woods produced a miracle fairway bunker shot on the 18th hole in the final round.
Because of his low ranking, Waite has no official status on the Nationwide Tour and is no longer a member of the Australasian Tour, so would not have qualified to play at either the Open nor the Moonah Classic.
Good results in New Zealand and Australia might be just the thing to kick-start his career.
"He needs this to re-establish his credentials," said Bob Tuohy, the promoter for the NZ PGA Championship and NZ Open.
"He needs badly to have a couple of nice weeks in Queenstown and Moonah Links to get his year going."
But if Waite is truly to realise his dream of playing again on the PGA Tour, the switch to left-handed putting will be the key.
Waite has long been regarded as one of the best ball-strikers in the game but putting has been his ball and chain.
The irony is that he is a natural left-hander and ended up playing golf right-handed only because of a lack of left-handed equipment when he was learning.
Former professional Craig Perks, writing in this month's New Zealand Golf Magazine, revealed Waite's decision to switch.
"It has been the short stick that has been Grant's major source of frustration throughout the years and has actually culminated in the reality that he has decided to take this last shot at saving his career by putting left-handed," he writes.
"Grant has tried to improve his putting with every method known to man, from putting cross-handed to using the belly putter. He started playing golf as a lefty ... to this day, anything that involves touch, feel and distance recognition, Grant performs left-handed, so it seems a no-brainer to try putting left-handed."
Last year at the New Zealand Open Waite was tied for second going into the last day. However, as he put it, "horrendous putting killed any chance of winning. The weakest part of my game is the most important".
Tuohy revealed another boost to the Open field with news left-handed Kiwi Tim Wilkinson will be coming back to New Zealand for the event.
Wilkinson will play the Sony Open in Hawaii the week ahead of the Open and will make a hit-and-run trip to Queenstown before returning to Los Angeles the following week for the Northern Trust Open.



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